Category Archives: Water Quality

Inspection of Buildings, Water Supplies


Some Nelson landowners with property either on or close to the route have been contacted by Dominion’s contractors to ask for permission to inspect their buildings and/or wells. Friends of Nelson believes Dominion is trying to amass pre-construction data so that if landowners later complain that their foundations have cracked or their well is no longer producing as much good water, there will be a basis for comparison.

Although we recommend that people consult with their own lawyers about whether to allow these inspections (which are separate from the pipeline surveys authorized under VA Code 56-49.01), attorneys at Appalachian Mountain Advocates have said that they see little downside to allowing the inspections: if Dominion has a record from their own contractors that the water supply was good before the pipeline, it will be harder for them to shirk responsibility if wells go bad during/after construction.

However, we are also recommending that people INSIST on getting a copy of the report. That way, if there is anything that indicates existing problems, or somehow seems incorrect, they can arrange for re-testing with a different contractor on their own in order to confirm/refute the results.

Indeed, Friends of Nelson recommends that folks who are concerned about potential impacts to their water source get well-documented, baseline water data NOW. Then, if the pipeline is actually built, they should continue to monitor during construction and for a period afterwards.

With the support of Friends of Nelson and a number of other organizations, an excellent guide to water supply monitoring has been produced by Downstream Strategies. The guide is nearly 50 pages; note that the actual “How To” of monitoring starts on p.22, and there is also list of independent consultants that landowners can hire to do the work starting on p. 36.

If you have questions or want further information, please email friendsofnelson@gmail.com; give us your phone number so we can call you back.

Continuing the Fight

Voices From Bath and Highlanders for Responsible Development co-sponsored a meeting in Highland County on February 1, 2017. at which speakers from five groups discussed the DEIS and offered ways for the many attendees to continue their involvement in the pipeline fight. Speakers included Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition program coordinator; Joe Lovett, attorney and founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates; Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance executive director; and Nancy Sorrells, with the Augusta County Alliance. The five agreed FERC had issued an incomplete and inaccurate DEIS.

Greg Buppert said the DEIS “glosses over important impacts. There’s missing information. There’s information that is deferred. But this is the type of impact statement that FERC produces.” He also said the need for the ACP has been exaggerated by a Dominion-created group of businesses. “Our first critical focus will be on the need for this project. There’s evidence that this project is not needed to meet the demand for natural gas. The arrangement of the entities, both building the pipeline and buying the gas, is that they’re all affiliates and subsidiaries of Dominion Resources. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that’s not an arm’s length transaction that’s accurately reflecting the market.”

Rick Webb pointed out an obvious falsehood in the draft EIS. “Here, it says the engineering status and the permitting status are done,” he said. “Both of those are completely false. The engineering is far from being completed and none of the permitting is done.” He also said FERC had dismissed concerns about the potential for water contamination in cavernous karst terrain. “It’s not just where the pipeline crosses. Dominion is only looking at karst features within a certain distance on either side of this corridor. It’s everybody downstream — their water supply is at risk…. Once you get that mud into the subterranean karst system, it takes a long time for it to work its way out.” Webb urged residents downstream from any proposed pipeline activity to write to FERC before the April 6 deadline and request thorough study of potential karst water pollution.

Joe Lovett also urged everyone to file comments to FERC prior to April 6, and asked that they provide copies of their comments and other information to his organization, Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “If you have some data and you think FERC isn’t going to consider it, please let us know, because FERC is obligated to consider all of the relevant information. If they fail to consider it, that’s a flaw and that’s how we win.”

Nancy Sorrells urged landowners to not sell easements and discussed tactics being used by Dominion’s land agents. “This is not a done deal. The land agents who approach you will tell you it’s a done deal and you’d better sign. It’s your right — you don’t even have to talk to them. The spin they put out is pretty incredible. What they try to do is divide and conquer. They’ll say ‘Don’t tell your neighbor, but we’re going to give you a better deal.’ They’ll say ‘If you don’t sign, you’ll be flagged as troublemakers,’ or ‘We’ll just move the pipeline off your property because your neighbors have signed.’ ”

Sorrells distributed an Augusta Alliance information sheet that explains, “Dominion does not have the right to an easement through your property unless FERC grants it the power of eminent domain. That has not happened. Even if FERC ultimately grants Dominion the power of eminent domain (still far from certain), landowners have significant rights involving protection of their property to insure that they are paid the true value of the highest and best use of their property.”

The Augusta Alliance formed the Virginia Easement Action Team, a non-profit education and legal defense group, to assist landowners who do not wish to sell easements to Dominion. More information can be found at www.augustacountyalliance.org.

High-Risk Proposal to Drill Through Blue Ridge at Reed’s Gap

[Photo by John Claman:  Piney Mountain,Three Ridges, Reed’s Gap]

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has submitted a report to FERC on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed ACP and the proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains at Reed’s Gap, going under the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the National Forest.

The report, A High Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, points to the many ways in which the information provided in the DEIS is insufficient to support evaluation of the proposed Blue Ridge drilling operation. It details missing information as well as MISinformation. For example:

  • The scale of excavation is not fully disclosed or considered, and the results of critical geophysical investigations have not been provided.
  • Identification of geohazards and evaluation of mitigation measures have been deferred until later, precluding a meaningful opportunity for informed review of the project.
  • The published DEIS fails to meet the information needs of of the public or the governmental agencies that have responsibilities related to the ACP project.

DPMC says FERC must release a revised DEIS to:

  • prove that boring through the Blue Ridge is a practicable option, by providing reliable and complete geophysical data
  • disclose the real extent of land disturbance and water quality damage the proposal would create
  • include detailed, site-specific plans and pollution control measures for all alternatives for crossing the Blue Ridge

Protect YOUR National Forest


The George Washington National Forest belongs to you!

Our forest is under threat from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The ACP would cut across steep slopes, destroy intact forests, threaten drinking water supplies and impact sensitive species. Worse yet, the need for the ACP has yet to be demonstrated at all. That means, our forests could very well suffer all of these consequences for nothing.

To go forward, the ACP needs to secure an amendment from the Forest Service because the project is not consistent with the current 10 year plan for the George Washington National Forest.

We believe the Forest Service should not grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this amendment and change the plan for our public lands. Our forests should not be destroyed for the benefit of a private company.

If you agree – please speak up now during this comment period. Your voice matters!

1) Sign and share the Wild Virginia petition. Petition Link

2) Then, comment! Send statements of support to Forest Service Chief, Thomas Tidwell, ttidwell@fs.fed.us, and Regional Foresters, Kathleen Atkinson, katkinson@fs.fed.us, and Tony Tooke, ttooke@fs.fed.usCopies of your letters should also be submitted to FERC’s online system to be included in the administrative record.   Wild Virginia has made you a guide to walk you through the process. Step-by-Step Comment Guide.  What should you talk about in your comments? Sample Comment Ideas   Comments are due by April 6, 2017. Remember to cite the ACP docket number, CP15-554.   You can also send comments to FERC by mail to: Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary, FERC, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.

3) Don’t stop yet…sign up for a comment writing night.
Wild Virginia will help you create and file comments on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Work with your friends and neighbors to pull together and file these important comments. There will be snacks and drinks.
March 20 in Staunton or March 27 in Charlottesville.

Where Will the Water Come from (and Where Will It Go)?


Many questions. No answers.

The Rockfish Valley Foundation submitted a letter to FERC on December 12, 2016, asking many questions about the water requirements for the proposed ACP in the Rockfish Valley, and in particular the water needs for the proposed HDD drill at Reid’s Gap and for the hydrostatic testing of the 42-inch line

“11 million gallon supply of water needed for drilling 4800 foot tunnel (HDD drill) across Reid’s Gap, Nelson County, VA. Is there a Plan B for this requirement if the proposal does not work?” Drilling will require great quantities of water at both ends of the proposed HDD drill. Where will the water come from when there is no sizeable source of water nearby? How will the water get there when roads to the top of the mountain are narrow, winding, and not suitable for trucks? Will such major withdrawals of water from streams be permitted? Will water have to come from the James River 50 or more miles away? What about weight limits for small bridges that heavily loaded water trucks would have to cross? How is the used water to be disposed of? Will it be contaminated by the drilling process? What will prevent it from spilling on the ground or running into the greenstone fractures and thus contaminating the pristine headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

For the hydrostatic testing, Dominion plans to generate 3,600,000 gallons of water from the South Fork of the Rockfish River at pipeline mile 163.8. What stream crossings and private roads (roads which have twists and right angle turns and low weight limit culvert crossings) will be crossed? Will eminent domain be required to use those private roads? The proposed 90% reduction of water flow in the South Fork raises riparian rights questions, as the loss of water would have major effects on downstream property owners. The South Fork is a Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries trout stream stocked by the nearby Montebello Fish Hatchery – what happens to fish (and other stream life) when water flow is drastically reduced?

Many questions. No answers.

In the Pipeline’s Path

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“The people of Appalachia, well accustomed to exploitation from moneyed outside corporations, are rallying against the loss of land, home values, and safety posed by the pipeline proposal. In fact, the pipeline has united communities across political and social spectra, in a fierce defiance against the project and a common goal to defeat its proponent, Dominion Resources.”

Dominion “has long been recognized for its outsized influence on Virginia’s government.” McAuliffe’s enthusiasm reflects “only the vaguest understanding of what the pipeline would entail for his constituents.” (and he has steadfastly refused to talk to opponents for 32 months now!)

“The revenue and job numbers Dominion has projected for the construction of the pipeline are staggering.” But “To some market analysts, this sounds almost too good to be true. In fact, environmental groups have challenged many of Dominion’s economic projections surrounding the project … [concluding] that Dominion’s claims regarding economic benefits were overstated and lacked adequate supporting data.”

“Furthermore, the ACP’s supporters reliably ignore the tedious environmental realities of this gargantuan undertaking.” The article explores environmental issues from clear-cutting and irreparable construction damage to endangered and invasive species to water quality and collapsing karst., and goes on to discuss threats to public health and safety.

And, not least, is the matter of Dominion’s taking of private property. One resident said, “Dominion has acted from the start as if people losing their rights and land are a nuisance along the way to bolstering its bottom line. Will Dominion get its way, trampling economic development and private property rights while giving little or nothing back to those it abuses?”

Read the excellent Earth Island journal article summarizing Dominion’s plans and the ever-rising groundswell of opposition to those plans. Communities along the ACP route are fighting back – and we are part of that fight!

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